Sr. Catherine Moran‘Can’t wait for Christmas!’ is the caption on a recent sales’ promotion leaflet. Waiting has become an obsolete enterprise for so many people. Everything has to be instant. Many of us are less tolerant of delays: people jump queues and sometimes get very angry and impatient if they have to wait to be served. Waiting, however, can be a very fruitful occupation, The Bible asks us, as it asked the people thousands of years ago, to “stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen,” and to “stand with confidence before the Son of Man.

Stories we listened to when we were children often began with, “Once upon a time…” The story of creation, however, takes us back to a ‘day’ that did not have a yesterday – the beginning of time. Even though science has opened up new and exciting insights into the beginnings of the universe, the truth of the Bible will remain, “In the beginning, God…”

Advent is an appropriate time to journey again with the great prophets as they foretold the coming of Christ and wait again ‘in joyful hope’ with the Church. Joy and hope belong together. The readings for the Sundays of Advent are full of joy and hope. These are in short supply today in our media: we read of wars and rumours of war. The great Exodus of the Old Testament is being re-lived before our eyes today. We witness distressing images of parents and little children crossing to Europe in order to escape from violence and hunger in their own country.

Mary and Joseph, too, had to leave their own country and travel to Egypt to escape Herod who wanted to kill Flight into Egyptthe Child. Yet, there are many reasons for joy in spite of all the sad events. During the weeks of Advent we shall be listening to the story of Christ’s coming told in music and song – music provided by the great composer Handel and “lyrics provided by the Angel Gabriel!” as expressed in the ‘Hail Mary’. All nature: hills, mountains, rivers and rocks are mobilised to welcome the Saviour.

In spite of so much sadness in our world – refugees fleeing their homeland, the hungry and the exploited, we are invited to “wait in joyful hope”. The great prophets of the Old Testament had been foretelling the coming of the Messiah for many centuries – yet, when he came the people failed to recognise him. However, the poor shepherds did not miss Him. They found a way to the stable and recognised Jesus in swaddling clothes. They were the first to spread the news. May we recognise him today in the poor, the homeless, the refugees and the exploited. As we move further into the darkness of winter, may we be on the lookout for signs of light, recalling the words in the First Letter of St. John: “Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling” (1 John 1:10).

An old woman, on her way to the cemetery with a bouquet of flowers, was asked why there were no flowers before a neglected saint’s grave. Her reply was that he had died centuries ago. But when asked why decorate the Crucifix in a cemetery, since Christ had died two thousand years ago, the reply came, “Sure Christ was never long ago!” May we, too, be open to recognise Christ among us today in the homeless, the refugees and those who need to know that God loves them. Advent is all about finding our way back to God.

Sr. Catherine Moran HFB.